Photo: Protesters march through Brooklyn in response to police brutality
By Sandra Harris
On November 1, over a thousand people took to the streets in downtown Brooklyn to protest police brutality in New York City subways. The march led to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Subway Station, where protesters jumped turnstiles and chanted against the police. People held banners that read “don’t let these pigs touch us ever again,” and chanted “fire, fire, fire to the gentrifiers.”
In recent months, New York state and city governments have deployed additional police officers to survey primarily oppressed nations people in an effort to stop fare evasion. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported in June that the subway system was losing $300 million annually to fare evasions.
In response, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new plan to place an additional 500 officers on subways and buses to stop fare evasion. The government primarily placed this additional police presence in working-class oppressed nations neighborhoods. The growing number of incidents of Black youth being beaten by police for not paying the $2.75 fare to ride the subway clearly illustrates how the police exist to enforce national oppression and serve the ruling class.
Over the past several weeks, tensions between the masses and the police have escalated in several well-documented incidents of police brutality against Black youth.
On October 25, 19-year-old Adrian Napier sat with his hands in the air while police officers approached a crowded subway car pointing guns at him. A group of police officers entered and tackled him to the ground. While officers claimed Napier had a gun, they found no such evidence, but arrested him for fare evasion.
The same weekend in a separate incident, a group of police began breaking apart a small fight between a group of young people. In video captured of the fight, a white police officer punched two teenagers, clearly charging and punching 15-year-old Benjamin Marshall in the face. Marshall said he was not a part of the fight and had been nearby to retrieve his backpack.
Following the incident, Marshall was arrested on suspicion of assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, and disorderly conduct. Another teenager was charged with reckless endangerment, and three 18-year-olds were charged with resisting arrest. Shortly afterwards, Benjamin and his family announced they would be filing at $5 million lawsuit against the city.
Last Friday’s protest was organized by various groups against police brutality. In addition to the recent instances of police violence, organizers also highlighted the police murders of Allan Feliz, Antonio Williams, and Victor Hernandez, which had all occurred in the month of October.
News outlets reported that police cars were tagged with slogans such as RIP Eric Garner, in honor of the man who was choked and killed by a New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014 (who filed a lawsuit this week against the police commissioner and NYPD to get his job back). Two people were arrested during the protests— one for allegedly writing “pigs” on a marked police car and another for spitting on a police officer.
Actions such as mass fare evasion are rare in the United States— this tactic is likely inspired by uprisings such as those in Chile, where the youth took to jumping turnstiles, occupying metro stations, and setting them on fire. While Chile’s uprising was initially sparked by fare hikes, it transformed into a broad movement against the reactionary old state. The protests in New York differ in that they were largely motivated by the oppression faced by working class Black people and other oppressed peoples, especially as it relates to police brutally enforcing transportation fares.
The mass protest in New York City is only the most recent iteration of the larger movement against police brutality and imperialist oppression of Black people. It demonstrates that the masses have a strong desire and willingness to rebel against the decaying system of imperialism and a vested interest in destroying the prisonhouse of nations.